A performance during Tiny Lights Music Festival in the small Kootenay community of Ymir is seen here in 2017. The annual music festival has been postponed to 2021. Photo: Tyler Harper

A performance during Tiny Lights Music Festival in the small Kootenay community of Ymir is seen here in 2017. The annual music festival has been postponed to 2021. Photo: Tyler Harper

Will the show go on? B.C. music festivals consider options over coronavirus

Summer events are running out of time to stay on schedule

The sound of silence may be the only music heard at B.C. festivals this summer.

Tiny Lights, a music festival held in the small Kootenay town of Ymir near Nelson, has postponed this year’s event to 2021. It may also be the opening act in a slew of postponements due to the COVID-19 outbreak and restrictions on public gatherings.

Carla Stephenson, the festival’s executive director, said Wednesday the ninth annual event will be moved from its original date of June 12 to 14 this year, back to June 11 to 13, 2021. The decision to postpone the popular event was the right call, she said.

“I actually feel really relieved, because I feel like the stress of keeping my community safe was making me more stressed out than actually just calling it,” said Stephenson.

Tiny Lights is the biggest event of the year in the small community of 245 people. A report published in June 2019 by Victoria’s Royal Roads University and Creative BC found the three-day festival had a $700,000 economic impact on the region.

It’s also among the earliest summer festivals to run in B.C., the majority of which are scheduled throughout July and August, and the first to announce postponement.

Stephenson said organizers across the province are grappling with whether or not to delay their events. Many of the considerations for doing so are tied to financial concerns.

“I know that every single festival is struggling with this right now, because they are booking people,” she said. “How do you advertise right now? You can’t.”

Several of the biggest music festivals across the globe, such as Glastonbury in England, and Coachella in California, have already announced postponed dates to either later this year or into 2021.

Debbi Salmonsen, executive director of the Vancouver Folk Music Festival, is among those organizers weighing their options.

The festival, which is currently scheduled to run July 17 to 19 at Jericho Beach Park, is one of the biggest in B.C. Salmonsen said 10,000 to 15,000 people attend the event daily, along with up to 1,500 volunteers and more than 40 acts.

The logistics of training those volunteers and signing contracts to bring in staples such as fencing, public toilets and food vendors, means a minimum of 14 weeks to bring everything together ahead of the scheduled dates.

“They are complex things to organize, small or large. Large is just a bigger scale, more people involved, longer timeline to be set up,” said Salmonsen, who added that a final decision will be made about the folk festival in April.

“So we are consciously optimistic. We haven’t made a decision for our own festival yet, but certainly the board and three key staff we have are monitoring it daily.”

Tiny Lights and the Vancouver Folk Music Festival, like many such events, are run by non-profit organizations that depend on grants and ticket sales to operate.

In B.C., grants come from organizations such as Creative BC and the BC Arts Council, the latter of which has said it won’t ask for refunds on expenses already paid for.

But Stephenson said many funders have yet to make a decision about the grants they’ve committed to for this year. That uncertainty is weighing on all non-profits in B.C., and not just music festivals.

Festivals have also been collecting ticket sales for months.

Tiny Lights opened ticket sales last October. Stephenson said her team is hoping to hold onto those sales until next year since refunds aren’t an option.

“If we had to refund all of our ticket payments we would not be OK. If we can hold onto them until next year, that gives us a chance to be financially OK for next year.”

Salmonsen said her festival’s sales began in December, and that a decision about refunds is among the many her team is being forced to contemplate. Revenue from ticket sales, in many cases, has also already been spent on deposits for booked artists.

At smaller festivals like Tiny Lights, those deposits give musicians financial certainty during tours where Stephenson said they might make around $500 per show. For larger shows like the folk festival, the deposits might cover expenses for artists travelling from abroad.

But for organizers, that money can’t be recovered once an artist is booked, which in turn delays lineup announcements by festivals hesitant to spend during the outbreak.

Stephenson said she recently spoke to another organizer at a festival outside the Kootenays currently scheduled for August that pays a $2,500 deposit to musicians.

“They were like, if we pay all these out, they’re not refundable. If we pay out $15,000, $20,000 deposits to people and it’s not refundable and our funders pull out our funding because we postpone, we are screwed as an organization. We can’t do this ever again.”

But if the shows don’t go on, Salmonsen said it will place a considerable financial burden on an entire industry in the province.

“Musicians, arts administrators, none of us know what’s going to happen to our jobs, our ability to pay rent, etc,” she said. “So we also care what happens to the musicians as well as our festival, our contracting crew who rely on us, the vendors who come in and sell scarves, carved artwork, food.

“All those things, it’s a really big ecosystem.”



tyler.harper@nelsonstar.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

CoronavirusLive music

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Benjamin Cashion, left, the first baby born at Shuswap Lake General Hospital in 2021, is already taking to his older brother Liam. (Submitted)
Newcomers to Shuswap welcome Salmon Arm hospital’s first baby of 2021

The Cashion family’s newest son Benjamin was born on Jan. 8.

A map released by the BCCDC on Jan. 15 shows the number of new COVID-19 cases reported for each local health area between Jan. 3 and 9. (BCCDC Image)
Salmon Arm and Vernon see increase in new COVID cases, curve flattening elsewhere

The rate of new cases is levelling off in Kelowna, Penticton and Revelstoke.

(Photo: Pixabay)
Enderby chamber proposes new rural e-business training program

The program would help rural-area businesses expand using online tools and insights

Signs in Homer, Alaska, offer inspiration during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Michael Armstrong-Homer News)
COLUMN: COVID-19 pandemic hits home

In Plain View by Lachlan Labere

With bridge construction well underway on the project to replace the Solsqua-Sicamous bridge. Motorists should expect delays of up to half an hour. (Jim Elliot/Eagle Valley News)
Pedestrian path would connect Solsqua-Sicamous bridge to community

District of Sicamous staff say bridge replacement project on tight schedule

Keith the curious kitten is seen on Nov. 4, 2020 at the Chilliwack SPCA. Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 is Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Jan. 17 to 23

Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day, Pie Day and International Sweatpants Day are all coming up this week

(Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
‘Targeted’ shooting in Coquitlam leaves woman in hospital

The woman suffered non-life threatening injuries in what police believe to be a targeted shooting Saturday morning

The organizer of a Kelowna protest against COVID-19 restrictions was fined by the RCMP for the third time Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021. (File photo)
COVID-19: Organizer of Kelowna anti-restriction protest ticketed for third time

The individual’s latest ticket for $2,300 was handed out by RCMP at an anti-lockdown rally Saturday

Mount Boucherie Secondary School is one of three Kelowna schools with confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to an update from the school district Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021. (File photo)
COVID-19 confirmed at 3 Kelowna schools

Interior Health has confirmed exposures at Mount Boucherie, Springvalley and South Rutland schools

Half of the most expensive homes are on 2080 Mackenzie Crt, which is across the street from Revelstoke Mountain Resort. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)
The 10 most valuable homes in Revelstoke for 2020

Combined, the properties are worth more than $35M

Lake Country native Evan-Riley Brown is in the cast for the new film Journey To Royal: A WW II Rescue Mission to be released on video on demand and streaming services on Feb. 2. (Contributed)
Okanagan actor lands role in WW II movie

Evan-Riley Brown, from Lake Country, cast in production labelled as hybrid of a feature film and documentary called Journey To Royal: a WW II Rescue Mission.

JaHyung Lee, “Canada’s oldest senior” at 110 years old, received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. He lives at Amenida Seniors Community in Newton. (Submitted photo: Amenida Seniors Community)
A unique-looking deer has been visiting a Nanoose Bay property with its mother. (Frieda Van der Ree photo)
A deer with 3 ears? Unique animal routinely visits B.C. property

Experts say interesting look may be result of an injury rather than an odd birth defect

Standardized foundation skills assessment tests in B.C. schools will be going ahead later than usual, from Feb. 16 to March 12 for students in Grades 4 and 7. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. teachers say COVID-affected school year perfect time to end standardized tests

Foundational skills testing of Grade 4 and 7 students planned for February ad March

Most Read